It just so happened this Spring, that a number of wonderful opportunities opened up for me to participate in hiking parts of the AT as well as meeting and hanging out with some wonderful new (and old) friends and seeing some incredible parts of this beautiful country, which may remain hidden from all but the most insistent hikers…
You can’t call this luck, doing so would be an injustice, more like divine providence, but at a time when I needed it the most, suffering with a broken heart and bruised ego, a fascinating thing happened. I received an invite to hike part of the AT, the Appalachian Trail, which spans more than 2000 miles across the mountains of the Eastern US and poses quite a challenge for increasing numbers of hikers each year, not just in one, but 2 very distinctly different areas. Independently of one another, these friends of friends extended an offer I could not refuse (seeing as I agreed to hike the trail in it’s entirety next year, but that’s another story), so there I went, scheduling one outing to follow closely with the other.
My second adventure on the AT lasted 2 and a half days and was punctuated by marvelous views, enormous rocks that had to be overcome by hand over hand climbing and lots of trail magic. It was to include hiking from New Jersey’s Highway 94 Northbound (NOBO) across the New York State line to Highway 17A over 15 miles of strenuous rocky terrain. I had a blast and that was only the first day…
Day two caught us reversing course, so to speak, and hiking Southbound (SOBO) from Elk Pen, NY, to West Mombasha Road intersection with the AT (approximately 5.5 miles) and again from New York State Route 17A on top of Bayvale Ridge to Wildcat Shelter (approximately 2 miles), skipping one small, but extremely technical section of the trail, so we could make it to shelter before dark.
A big shout-out and “Thank you!” goes to Mike from Anton’s on the Lake in Greenwood Lake, NY !! ( www.antonsonthelake.com ) Mike serves many functions at this amazing B&B, which is not only beautiful and perfectly situated on the North end of the lake, but also is very (!!) hiker friendly. He is receptionist, concierge, host, deliverer of tasty breakfasts, but most of all we appreciate him being our chauffeur for a nominal fee. He picked us up from the side of the road at West Mombasha, when we (okay I) were hot and sweaty and running out of juice, and delivered us safely to the hotel, so we could pick up my vehicle. My hiking partner and I then drove up to Bayvale Ridge to leave my car overnight in the parking lot near the most amazing ice cream shop that exists, Bayvale Creamery (more on that subject in a bit!). Hiking out after proper refreshment and revival by the yumminess of homemade ice cream, we had just enough time to make it to our campsite before the daylight vaned. We were to spend the night at Wildcat Shelter, tent camping among other weekend hikers as well as hardcore thru-hikers, and backtrack the 2 miles in the morning.
Upon arrival at Wildcat shelter we found several hikers already there, including Bloodhound (70+ years old), Socks & Rocks (a father / son team) and my sweet new friend and namesake Christine, aka Icecream (I’ll give you one guess as to the inception of that name) who quickly became my very best trail buddy ❤ .
The mosquitos were just a buzzing around the campsite (note: a lot of times you’ll find an increased number of ticks etc. around the immediate shelter area, therefore most hikers will find a nearby spot of their choosing to settle in, there are however some locations where use of the actual shelter is mandated). A fire had not been started yet. In no time flat MacGuyver took care of this task and demonstrated how to increase smoke production which reduces the quantity of mosquitos.
Such a campfire is a magnetic thing, if I may tell you, even the late arrivals (I apologize for not remembering everyone’s name) came out to enjoy the tail end of an exciting day, one brought out a miniature guitar and started playing a few songs. It turns out that Rocks, the son of Socks, is a genuine musician as well, so when he received a turn at the guitar, he regaled us with medieval as well as rock tunes. During the course of this gathering I received my trail name: PINK. Not surprising, really, seeing as I am likely to be donned in hot pink lip stick and hot pink trail runners. It matches me well 🙂
My hiking partner and absolute AT GURU MacGuyver also taught us how to hang a bear bag and emphasized the importance of planning ahead. You want to make it to shelter and pitch your tent during daylight, eat dinner, hang your bear bag, take care of everything you need to before it gets dark and be safely zipped into your tent by the time the bugs come out to feast on hiker blood. “Hiker’s Midnight” is dusk, btw, you’ll rarely see serious hikers staying up and partying or socializing past that time, because everyone has to refuel and get plenty of rest so they can start back early for the next days hike.
According to the AT distance calculator, which is an amazing tool, I have hiked a total of 1.9 % of the trail which covers 2189.8 Miles. Doesn’t seem that much, but I have memories and friendships that will last a lifetime. Looking forward to starting the NOBO hike next Spring, it will be delightful, I’m sure.
Have you tried your hand (better yet: feet) at long distance hiking ? If so, which trails have you done ?
Have you ever been on the AT? What was your favorite part ?
Are you a successful thru-hiker ?
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